The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition

1.1 Background

Page last updated: 30 August 2016

PDF printable version of 1.1 Background (PDF 83 KB)

This chapter has been amended on 22 June 2015.

For more than 200 years, since Edward Jenner first demonstrated that vaccination offered protection against smallpox, the use of vaccines has continued to reduce the burden of many infectious diseases. Vaccination has been demonstrated to be one of the most effective and cost-effective public health interventions. Worldwide, it has been estimated that immunisation programs prevent approximately 2.5 million deaths each year.1 The declaration of the global eradication of smallpox in 1980, near elimination of poliomyelitis and global reduction in other vaccine-preventable diseases, are model examples of disease control through immunisation.

Vaccination not only protects individuals, but also protects others in the community by increasing the overall level of immunity in the population and thus minimising the spread of infection. This concept is known as ‘herd immunity’. It is vital that healthcare professionals take every available opportunity to vaccinate children and adults. Australia has one of the most comprehensive publicly funded immunisation programs in the world. As a result of successful vaccination programs in Australia, many diseases, for example, tetanus, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b and poliomyelitis, do not occur now or are extremely rare in Australia.2

The purpose of The Australian Immunisation Handbook is to provide clinical guidelines for health professionals on the safest and most effective use of vaccines in their practice. These recommendations are developed by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and were considered for approval by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (under section 14A of the NHMRC Act 1992).

The Handbook provides guidance based on the best scientific evidence available at the time of publication from published and unpublished literature. Further details regarding the Handbook revision procedures are described below in 1.2 Development of the 10th edition of the Handbook. The reference lists for all chapters are included in the electronic version of the Handbook, which is available via the Immunise Australia website.

Information is provided in the Handbook for all vaccines that are available in Australia at or near the time of publication. These include many vaccines that are funded under the National Immunisation Program (NIP). A copy of the current NIP schedule is provided with the hard copy of the Handbook. However, the NIP schedule may also be updated regularly; immunisation service providers should consult the Immunise Australia website for changes. A number of vaccines included in this Handbook are not part of the routine immunisation schedule; these vaccines may be given to, for example, persons travelling overseas, persons with a medical condition placing them at increased risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable disease, or those at occupational risk of disease.

The information contained within the hard copy of the Handbook (published in 2013) was correct as at October 2012. However, the content of the Handbook is reviewed regularly. The 10th edition of The Australian Immunisation Handbook will remain current unless amended electronically via the Immunise Australia website or until the 11th edition of the Handbook is published.

Electronic updates to the 10th edition of The Australian Immunisation Handbook will be available via the Immunise Australia website


  1. World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, World Bank. State of the world’s vaccines and immunization. 3rd ed. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2009. (accessed June 2012).
  2. Chiu C, Dey A, Wang H, et al. Vaccine preventable diseases in Australia, 2005 to 2007. Communicable Diseases Intelligence 2010;34 Suppl:ix-S167.